The first major wave of event technology took place in the early 2000s when online ticketing and registration leaped onto the internet. Not only can technology be used to engage attendees but it can also be used to help plan, enhance, and measure events more than ever before. The life of an event is now extended because it’s digital presence spans before, during, and after the actual event occurs. Both online and in person, various technologies are changing the landscape of live events.
In their book, “The Face of Digital” authors Marco Giberti and Jay Weintraub discuss the effects that technology is having on the live events space and how the need for organizers to adapt is imminent. They state “digital technology is influencing all aspects of business, and the events industry is finally beginning to feel the impact. Embracing these challenges, understanding potential trends, and being brave enough to engage with the cycle of testing/learning/fixing/retesting is part of a key cultural change that the industry is starting to realize is critical for future success, perhaps even survival.”
Keeping up with the Jones’ means not only using the latest technology but knowing the best way to leverage it for your specific event. Live event organizers must focus on utilizing the right technologies for their event. Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) and beacon technology is essential for a multi-day festivals as it streamlines many processes and allows for increased data collection. Online registration and ticketing are nothing new but easing that process and putting it on the right platform are crucial when it comes to increasing conversion rates. Live streaming is predicted to grow in popularity and can be a powerful tool for attracting a loyal audience. Mobile applications can foster engagement by opening up an interactive channel for attendees. The use of artificial intelligence has been on the rise as organizers are finding new and better ways to utilize this technology in order to enhance customer experiences. Augmented and virtual reality are taking events to the next level by inspiring organizers to create out of the ordinary activations. There are also several rising technologies like facial recognition, crowd streaming, and other new innovations starting to be seen in the live events industry.
RFID & Beacon Technology
RFID technology has changed the game for festivals and conferences. Equipping guests with an RFID bracelets can help speed up the check in process, enhance security, allow for cashless payments, and integrate people more smoothly into sponsored activations. Not only does this technology allow for a seamless experience but it can also provide more data points for event organizers. By having more information to analyze the event can make improvements as well as provide ROI numbers for sponsors. Now a festival can know how long bathroom wait times are, where attendees go when they first enter the event, how many people attended a certain set, and let sponsors know who attended their activation. Event organizers can even combine RFID with beacon and proximity technology to provide live updates to attendees based on where the are at on the grounds.
Selling tickets online seems like a no brainer for a live event. However, now that the technology is so standard it is not good enough to just sell tickets online. In an Eventbrite survey, 98% of creators stated that they were having difficulty reaching new attendees in 2018. This is why it is important for live events to integrate their ticketing platform into their online presence. Instagram, who has over 800 million active monthly users, recently partnered with Eventbrite to now offer a “Get Tickets” button option for business profiles. Now events can add this to their profile, making it easier for those viewing to purchase tickets. The process is also more streamlined, it will autofill in the users name and email. Meeting users where they are and making the process as easy as possible is essential when it comes to converting browsers into buyers. Organizers who have added these purchase processes to their Facebook pages and other platforms have seen 2x the sales and free registrations.
In today’s digital era it is important that an event has a strong online presence. Live Streaming provides events with an opportunity to engage with an audience that was not able to attend the event this year but may be interested in it in the future. It is also a chance to work with sponsors to provide a unique experience. By allowing outsiders a chance to view what’s going on during the event, organizers are building fan loyalty without having to service those people on site. Go- Globe conducted a study on the “State of Live Streaming” that showed that 67% of viewers are more likely to buy a ticket after watching a live stream. Streaming video is expected to account for 82% of all internet traffic by 2020 making it the technology to focus on in the future. The survey also showed that organizers perceive many benefits to live streaming an event. 60% like that that it gives the creators a chance to get real time audience feedback, 63% believe that it brings a human touch to marketing, 79% say that it generates a more authentic interaction with the audience, and 61% enjoy that live streaming can be viewed or repurposed later.
Mobile applications are a key component of any festivals digital footprint. This can serve as a central location for attendees to access schedules, maps, and other essential information for an event. It can also allow for more interactions between both festival organizers and attendees as well as attendees with other attendees. One report stated that 31% of millennials admit to being on their phone for at least half of the event. Live event organizers can leverage this usage by deploying an awesome mobile application. When done right, event mobile apps can increase an attendees engagement by 33% according to a study done by Frost and Sullivan. A mobile application can also sync with beacon technology to engage with guests while they are on site.
Not only is having a mobile application for an event important but utilizing the right apps to help plan your event can be equally as useful. Management apps like Eventbrite or Bizzabo offer a pretty comprehensive application that will allow users to track ticket sales, scan tickets, and allows for secure payments. Communication apps like Slack or Doodle can help to keep the planning and operations team organized. Full blown planner apps like Planning Pod can help organizers manage everything from a central workspace.
Artificial Intelligence can be a cost effective solution for events looking to improve their customer service. This technology can be integrated into a mobile application or plugged into online platforms like Facebook and email. The addition of a chatbox can allow for attendees to get their questions answered quickly and reduce the amount of staff needed to help. This alleviates stress on everyone and helps to cut down on cost. A virtual concierge can also be used on site to assist with questions that guests have during the event.
One festival that found success with this is Sound on Sound Fest who created a Facebook plugin that allowed attendees to get automated but targeted responses. “It was automated, and able to answer a lot of customer questions with a great success rate,” Morgan Howard, a freelance customer experience manager for festivals who worked on the bot, to says Eventbrite. “Fans got the instant gratification of receiving a response.”
AR/VR and other creative technologies
Virtual Reality (VR) is a way to create a 360 experience for people. This can be those at the event who you want to create a unique memory for or it can be those who you want to provide a full view of the event from a remote location. Augmented Reality (AR) can create a more interactive on site experience. Utilizing AR to add a gamification aspect to an event is a trend that has been emerging over the past year. Gamification involves adding game like elements, like earning points, to an event. This is an exceptionally creative way to engage with attendees by unleashing their inner competitive side.
At two major festivals, Coachella in California and Panorama in New York, HP created a larger than life 360 video experience. The brand leveraged creative innovation to engage with attendees at both events. Their interactive activation combined music, art, and HP’s latest technology to not only display the power of their products but to also give everyone a memorable time. The virtual reality theater is a 70 foot dome that encompasses those that sit in it in a full 360 audio and visual experience. At Coachella the mind blowing eight minute show immersed the audience, who was lounging on bean bags in the cool air conditioning, to the sounds of artists playing at the festival.
Facial recognition, crowd streaming, smart mats or floors, and other innovative technologies are on the rise. In the coming years it is predicted that facial recognition will be used to enhance security, streamline event check in, and even allow events to gauge the moods of an audience. Software that can read body language and facial expressions can help to provide more seamless feedback to organizers. Crowd streaming, sourcing live content from attendees, has also been gaining popularity. Instagram has recently begun to allow users to repost stories that they have been tagged in on their own feed. This allows event profiles to use attendee generated content on their feed. Not only does it save them time and money on content creation but it also engages fans by encouraging them to post more. Smart mats or floors are another new technology that is being used in the future to track the movements of guests at events. These are a non intrusive, anonymous way that event organizers can collect data.
With so many new technologies emerging, the level of investment that the world is pumping into a certain one is usually a good indication of whether or not a technology is worth pursuing. “We look at the level of investment a technology is receiving before determining if it’s worth understanding,” Event Manager Blog’s Julius Solaris says to Eventbrite. “In 2016, $5 billion was invested in AI technology. So we expect that to grow to $40 billion over the next ten years.”
Live event organizers have a whole toolbox of reliable and emerging technologies that they can use to help enhance attendee experiences, measure useful data points, and plan events with ease. RFID and beacon technology can be used to make the event more seamless while also allowing organizers to collect meaningful information. While online registration and ticketing is nothing new, it is not enough just to have it. It is important to also integrate your ticketing platform into your online presence in order to convert browsers into buyers. As livestreaming gains in popularity it will become the norm for all events to provide to remote audiences during their event in order to garner a loyal fan base. Mobile applications can not only foster communication between the event and attendees but can also engage them through gamification and other creative uses. As artificial intelligence technology continues to advance more and more events will begin to use it to replace their customer service staff in order to provide more efficient service to attendees. Brands will continue to push the envelope of creative installations through the use of AR and VR. Other rising technologies like facial recognition, crowd streaming, smart floors, and others are starting to gain popularity in the changing landscape.
Those organizers who are quicker to adapt and integrate the right tools will be the most successful. While technology is nothing new for live events one thing is certain, utilizing the right tools and learning what new ones can be used are becoming essential.
By: Kye Browning
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